In the Magistrates’ Court at Bristol
2 June 2021
His Honour Judge Ralton
Curo Place Ltd
- Curo Place Limited is a well-known provider of social housing. Mr Robert Y is a tenant at one of Curo’s premises, being a flat, number 33 Maple Leaf Court, Richmond Terrace, Clifton. The building comprises of a block of flats occupied by other residents who are thus neighbours of Mr Y. Curo became concerned that Mr Y was carrying out anti-social behaviour within the meaning of the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 and on 22 February 2021 it made an application for injunction orders, supported by evidence.
- The application came before District Judge Watkins on 23 February 2021, on a without notice basis. Mr Y would not have been aware of that hearing. District Judge Watkins made a number of orders against Mr Y. The first order was forbidding Mr Y from using or threatening violence towards any person who lives in or is visiting the block of flats in which the flat known as 33 Maple Leaf Court, Richmond Terrace, Clifton, Bristol BSH 1EF (“the Property”) is situated.
- That provision of the injunction order was accompanied by a power of arrest. According to the certificate of service on the court file, the injunction order was served on Mr Y on 2 March 2021. In the meantime, as the original order was made on a without notice basis, the proceedings came back to court and came before District Judge Taylor on 9 March 2021. Mr Y would have known of that hearing but he did not attend, and Mr Cobb attended for the housing association. Certain additional orders were made against Mr Y, with which we need not trouble ourselves today.
- Mr Y is before the court today, 2 June 2021, having been arrested by the police under the terms of the injunction order. The arrest all concerns, it appears, the events that took place on 31 May, last Monday.
- According to the statement of Patricia Palmer, she was in her own flat in the block of flats and she saw a person believed to be Mr Y ringing her doorbell from about 8.30pm last Monday, running up and down the corridor and shouting verbal abuse, and I quote from her statement, she recalls this person using the words “You fucking cow” and “I’m fucking going to get you, you bitch” and “I know you’re in there, I’m going to come and get you”.
- Miss Palmer called the police. One of the police officers who attended was Police Constable 949 Gibson. On seeking to work with Mr Y, she tells me in her witness statement that Mr Y was in drink and twice assaulted her by grabbing her forearm. It would appear that the assaults, or I should say alleged assaults, on PC Gibson have resulted in Mr Y being arrested and put before the Magistrates’ Courts, and that matter has not yet been dealt with, and Curo invite me not to deal with that matter today.
- That leaves the matter of the threatening words shouted at Miss Palmer. Mr Warren appears for Curo today and Miss Stetson, duty solicitor, has kindly represented Mr Y today. So far as the language used against Miss Palmer is concerned, I am told that Mr Y admits the breach; in effect he pleads guilty and I am invited to proceed to sentence today.
- I am told, by way of background, although I have no evidence of such before me, that Mr Y has addiction issues with drink and he has mental health issues. These are unfortunate and difficult conditions to have and to manage, but nonetheless Miss Palmer is entitled to occupy her flat peacefully without hearing the sort of language and being the recipient of the threats used. I am told that Mr Y was, in fact, so much in drink that he really cannot recall the details of the incident.
- I am told that Mr Y has a starter tenancy. In fact, a section 21 notice within the meaning of the Housing Act 1988 has already been served. That will not be effective until much later this year. There can be no doubt that Mr Y is at risk of losing his home, albeit, as I understand from Miss Stetson, in fact, he would prefer to live with his sister who provides him with support, her home being in the Hartcliffe area.
- I note that this is the first time that Mr Y has been arrested and put before the court in civil proceedings, and I note that so far as Miss Palmer is concerned, I am dealing with, in effect, a single incident that did not actually involve physical violence, although that does not detract for a moment the frightening nature of the incident so far as Miss Palmer is concerned. The question therefore arises what sentence, if any, should I impose, and if I do impose a sentence, should it be effective immediately or should it be suspended?
- I remind myself that this is the county court and that the county court sentencing powers are extraordinarily limited by comparison to the sentencing powers of magistrates. I can sentence for a term of imprisonment of up to two years; I can fine; I can seize assets, those last two penal powers being realistically of little use or purpose in cases such as these. I could, of course, impose no penalty at all. Furthermore, this sort of behaviour does not fit neatly within the guidelines given by the Sentencing Council, which of course considers sentence from the perspective of all of the sentencing powers available to the Magistrates’ Courts.
- In terms of culpability, this would be a category B case, deliberate breach but not very serious of persistent, but more than a minor breach, and the category would probably be somewhere between category 2 and 3 because there was some distress caused.
- The ethos and thinking of the county court is different to a Magistrates’ Courts. The county court wants to secure compliance with its orders in order to protect people such as Miss Palmer. The county court is not there to administer the criminal law and to punish as such.
- Having carefully considered all of the factors that I have been given, but for the plea of guilty I would have considered a term of 21 days’ imprisonment would be appropriate but I reduce that by one-third because of the plea of guilty to 14 days’ imprisonment and the next question for me is whether or not to suspend. Because this is the first occasion, I am going to suspend. I will suspend for a period of six months, and the suspension will be on condition of complying with the injunction order made by District Judge Watkins, as extended by District Judge Taylor.
- Mr Y, that gives you an opportunity to retain your liberty, to mind how you behave and ensure that the county court does not see you again, but understand this; that if the county court does see you again for an offence of this nature and it is satisfied that it is sure that you have, in effect, committed another offence, there is a real likelihood that you will go to prison, and I hope that is clear to you.